How I Joined a Podcast Without Being a Podcaster

When I attended Mayberry Days in 2016, I gave Allan Newsome one of our chapter t-shirts. Allan is well-known in the Mayberry community as the tribute artist who acts as Floyd the barber at Mayberry events. Allan has often served as the Mayberry Deputy David Browning’s righthand man when David served as an emcee and has assumed many of David’s duties now that David is no longer attending Mayberry Days. Allan is also the podcaster who hosts the fan podcast called Two Chairs, No Waiting, the title of which is a reference to Floyd Lawson’s dream shop. He has been doing a weekly podcast since October 2008 and on October 16, 2018, posted his 5ooth episode. The gift of a shirt was just a small token of thanks to Allan for all he does to keep the Mayberry spirit alive.

Screenshot of Allan with a t-shirt from The Gomer and Goober Pyle Comic Book Literary Guild displayed behind him.

I mentioned earlier that when I announced my project of trying to post daily throughout 2017, we had 86 members. Allan was in attendance when I made that announcement. He generously agreed to give my project a boost by talking about it on his podcast. I sent him the first few days of posts I planned to make so he would not be recommending something without knowing it’s quality. In early December, Allan gave our Facebook group a shout out and told others about my planned posts throughout the year. He also showed the audience the shirt I had given him and some of the photos I had posted on our Facebook group page.

Allan observed that we were all showing our better sides in this shot.

At the beginning of 2017 and unbeknownst to me, a member of my Facebook group reached out to Allan and suggested having me share some of the information I was posting on the podcast. When Allan asked if I would be interested and willing, I happily agreed to do so periodically. The first podcast of 2017 had already gone by, but beginning the second week, I started sending in an audio report which I called This Week in Mayberry History. I did one literally every week the rest of that year and continue to contribute the reports regularly.

I have to share two points about doing the podcast reports. First, by the next Mayberry Days in 2017, after posting daily in The Gomer and Goober Pyle Comic Book Literary Guild Facebook group and preparing This Week in Mayberry History for the podcast, our group had gone from 86 members to around 3000.

Second, when I was first preparing to tape a report, I wasn’t sure how long a page of text translated to when reading aloud. I was in our bedroom just timing myself while reading what would later become my first report when my wife walked in, stopped in her tracks, and after a pause said, “Tell me you’re not starting a podcast.” I think she was happy to learn I was just doing a weekly segment of a few minutes on one!

 

Trips to Mount Airy, Part IX: Mayberry Days, 2016

Left to right, this is Steve, Rob, me, and Marty all showing our better sides.

Saturday morning Rob, Steve, Marty, and I, all wearing our new chapter t-shirts, went for breakfast at Snappy Lunch. We knew it would be the only opportunity to eat there that trip. When disappointment was expressed to our server that we would be missing out on the world-famous pork chop sandwich since it was breakfast, she told us the cook would still make them for us but that it would take a bit longer. Not a traditional breakfast, but all four of us had the tasty pork chop sandwich.

The ever lovely Betty Lynn.

The parade was a blast, as always. Afterward, even though I already had Betty Lynn’s autograph, I waited in line to meet her again and had her autograph a photo for another friend of mine who is a fan but couldn’t attend.

Professor Brower’s Lecture followed and was as entertaining as always in spite of the fact that Clint Howard, who was supposed to attend again, had to cancel at the last minute because of a film role. Instead, Clint arranged for Neal to interview Rance Howard, Clint and Ron’s father, by phone and Neal shared details of the conversation with the audience.

At the annual meeting of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club, I gave a report for The Gomer and Goober Pyle Comic Book Literary Guild for the first time. I shared that I had, on behalf of our group, been privileged to present Dorothy Best with her Duchess of Hazard certificate on Thursday.

Not great photo quality, I know, but it’s all I have. On the right is Jim Clark, the founder and Head Goober of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club.

 

I also announced that I was going to attempt to post something on our Facebook group page literally every day of 2017 and not just random facts. That would have been too easy. No, I was going to post facts related to each specific day. (This project eventually led to our new Mayberry calendar.) I will admit, I had a rough outline of a great many of the days already so I believed I could pull it off but the posts were certainly not all written in advance. Still, I asked anyone interested to check it out and wish me luck. I checked that morning, and at that point, we had 86 people in our Facebook group.

My old buddy, Marty.

Seeing my old friend, Marty, again after so long and gaining a new friend in  Steve made the 2016 trip to Mayberry Days an especially wonderful trip.

It was great to have Steve (on the right) join us for Mayberry Days.
Always fine dining at Hillbilly Hot Dogs.
Even the artificial flowers in their beautiful vases are subject to graffiti.

On the way back home on Sunday, Rob and I naturally introduced Steve to Hillbilly Hot Dogs. I have previously mentioned they have hot dogs with enough toppings to weigh multiple pounds called the Homewrecker and the Widowmaker. While they are known for their hot dogs, they also have burgers. Their biggest burgers are named after trailer types, so they have a Single Wide, a Double Wide, and even a Triple Wide. The latter is a 30-pound beef burger that is cooked in an enormous skillet. It is not 30 pounds of individual beef patties piled on a giant bun but is literally a single 30-pound meat patty. It sells for $150. Then again, it feeds up to 50.

The hamburgers I have seen there do look good, but since I only go once a year, it is hard for me to rationalize not getting a couple of hot dogs. After all, it is called Hillbilly Hot Dogs.

They offer some really great deals there sometimes!

Trips to Mount Airy, Part VIII: Mayberry Days, 2016

Beans galore at a store in Meadows of Dan.

The small community of Mayberry ceased to be a recognized town in 1922 and since has been technically part of the town of Meadows of Dan, Virginia, though the “downtown” of Meadows of Dan is nearly three miles from the Mayberry Trading Post. The business section of Meadows of Dan consists of just a few buildings. There is a candy factory where we stopped and bought sweets for our sweets back home, not to mention a few for ourselves. There are a couple of small diners, a general store, and a gas station. The general store carries a lot of novelty items and foods as well as more basic fare for locals. They also have a nice selection of soda pop, including one I had read about and had been looking for while we had been in the area: Cheerwine with Krispy Kreme Donut flavoring. I know it sounds sickly sweet, but it was actually good.

The historic Maybry Mill.

Farther up the parkway, we stopped at the historic Maybry Mill, one of the most photographed spots on the parkway. A restaurant and gift shop are on the grounds and it was packed. This may not be surprising as it is one of only three restaurants actually located in the 469-mile national park though there are certainly restaurants available nearby once you exit the parkway. We asked just out of curiosity what the wait was for a meal and were told it was two and a half hours. We were also told that arriving early for breakfast was the best way to visit without a wait but by mid-morning a wait was likely the rest of the day. As we left, we took the Blue Ridge Parkway south until we had to exit for Mount Airy.

We met one of our Facebook group’s namesakes in town.

When back in town, I left Rob and Steve uptown for a bit and went back to the hotel to rendezvous with an old friend I had not seen in 25 years. Marty and I attended middle and high school together and were part of a group of friends I recall fondly. After having not seen one another since the mid-1970s, we got together a few times in the early 1990s when Marty worked as a DJ for a brief period near where I live. After again not seeing each other for many years, we had tried to get together in 2015 when I was visiting Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina. Marty lives a bit over an hour south of there and we planned to meet in the middle toward the end of my trip, but when the day came a bad storm arose that kept the reunion from happening.

Old friends.

After noting how neither of us had aged at all, Marty and I joined Rob and Steve and went out to dinner. Marty regaled us with stories of his days as a radio DJ, especially when he was in Branson where he had the opportunity to interview many singers, including Rodney Dillard.

Andelina tribute artist Christie McLendon.

After dinner and being entertained by Marty, a natural storyteller, the great evening of entertainment continued with another wonderful concert by the VW Boys. Rob especially enjoyed that I was spotted by Andelina again, giving me a hard time it had happened two years in a row.

The next morning would see us donning our new The Gomer and Goober Pyle Comic Book Literary Guild t-shirts for the first time.

Trips to Mount Airy, Part VII: Mayberry Days, 2016

As mentioned in the Trips to Mount Airy, Part III: Mayberry Days, 2015 post, the previous year my traveling compadre Rob and I had seen a tribute to James Best after he had passed away earlier that year. It was hosted by Jimmie’s widow, Dorothy Best, and David Browning, The Mayberry Deputy. David did this out of his love for Jimmie as they had become close friends. A few months later, I had an idea that I thought Dorothy might enjoy.

David and Jimmie, or if you prefer, Barney and Roscoe.

My parents were both born in the mountains of eastern Kentucky and I traveled there often as a child. Years ago, the city of Hazard, Kentucky, had formed an unofficial association with the series The Dukes of Hazzard and cast members, including James Best, had appeared at an annual festival called the Black Gold Festival. (Being eastern Kentucky, “black gold” is a reference to coal, not oil.) To honor the cast members who came to town, the mayor would declare them honorary citizens of Hazard, Kentucky and name them a Duke or Duchess of Hazard. I will discuss this in more detail in a later blog post, but the city eventually extended the title to others. In fact, I am a proud Duke of Hazard.

I contacted David in early February and asked if he knew whether Dorothy had ever been designated a Duchess as I already knew Jimmie had been named a Duke. He eventually determined she had not and so I was able to have her so named. I had the certificate framed and told David I would be at the show again in 2016. I asked how to get the certificate to him in advance so he could present it to her, but he insisted I do the presentation.

Rob, Steve, and I arrived right at the beginning of the show. At its conclusion, with Dorothy not knowing in advance what was going to happen, David had me come onto the stage and present her with the certificate which was both a treat and an honor for me to do.

Dorothy is named a Duchess of Hazard.
Rob and Steve at Pilot Mountain.

Afterward, we took a trip to Pilot Mountain State Park then drove to a spot I had wanted to visit ever since I learned about it: Mayberry, Virginia, the inspiration for the name of the town featured in The Andy Griffith Show. Andy’s hometown of Mount Airy sits just south of the North Carolina-Virginia border and the small community of Mayberry is not far north of the border. We drove to the area from Mount Airy on the back roads which was a beautiful drive along winding country roads.

Our destination was the Mayberry Trading Post which had served the small community where Andy’s grandparents had lived and was where Andy’s grandfather sold wild chestnuts he had gathered.

The Mayberry Trading Post.
Lum and Abner.

The building has been there since 1892. It still houses a wonderful, old-time country store. The place is not only reminiscent of the Jot ‘Em Down Store from the old-time radio show Lum and Abner that was so influential on The Andy Griffith Show, a photo of Lum and Abner even hangs near the register. The woman who waited on us is Peggy Barkley and she is a delight. Peggy was surprised I recognized Lum and Abner. She was so friendly and was happy to answer any questions we had about the area. The store sits just off the magnificent Blue Ridge Parkway, so before we returned to Mount Airy, we headed north on the parkway.

Trips to Mount Airy, Part VI: Mayberry Days, 2016

Mayberry Days 2018 was held last weekend. Rest assured I will eventually discuss this year’s festival but it was a spectacular trip.

Two years ago, the 2016 Mayberry Days celebration saw the debut of the first t-shirts for our chapter of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club.

I mentioned in one of my first blog posts that my early love of Mayberry was rekindled when my college roommate and I would watch reruns in our dorm room. Dick and I attended Morehead State University in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in eastern Kentucky. We were both from Ohio though we did not previously know one another and were placed together by the housing department. Dick, a college friend of ours named Jim, and I attended our first Mayberry Days together in 2006.

Dick did not pursue it as his primary career, but he is a talented graphic artist. Having seen various club chapters sporting t-shirts at Mayberry Days the previous year, I asked Dick if he could come up with, in essence, a logo for our chapter, The Gomer and Goober Pyle Comic Book Literary Guild. He agreed to do so. I designed the basics of the logo but Dick created the artwork and brought it all together.

There shouldn’t be an apostrophe on the word “watchers” but that is entirely my fault, not Dick’s.

If that were not enough, Dick also does silkscreening. In college, he would occasionally silkscreen t-shirts for area clubs or churches to make extra money. He taught me how to silkscreen and while I dabbled in it, I never developed the expertise he did.

David Browning as The Mayberry Deputy.

Thus, Dick not only designed the original guild logo, he literally silkscreened the first shirts himself.

While Dick was unable to accompany us to Mayberry Days in 2016, a lifelong friend of Rob’s named Steve did. Rob had said he was sure Steve and I would hit it off. He was so right. Steve is also a huge fan of The Andy Griffith Show so Rob had ample opportunity to soak up a lot of Mayberry knowledge sitting in the back seat as Steve and I swapped information about the show most of the drive down.

We did not have an opportunity to stop at Hickie’s Hamburgers on that trip as we were on a schedule with a deadline. I had to be at the historic Earle Theater in the early afternoon as a result of an idea I first suggested and then arranged through a series of messages with The Mayberry Deputy, David Browning.

David Browning, the Mayberry Deputy

 

I have mentioned David Browning, known as the Mayberry Deputy, a couple of times in previous posts. He figures more prominently into another post that will be made a week from today beginning the recounting of my experiences at Mayberry Days in 2016, so it is an opportune time to tell a bit more about him.

David Browning as The Mayberry Deputy.
The Mayberry Deputy with the original, Don Knotts.

David does an incredible impersonation of Don Knotts, so much so that Don used David as an opening act for shows on more than one occasion.  Don himself said, “David Browning is a bridge between The Andy Griffith Show and today.” Ever respectful of the original, David does not refer to himself as a Barney Fife impersonator or tribute artist but instead as “The Mayberry Deputy.”

David with ole’ Goob himself, George Lindsey.

Over the years, David has worked with most of the surviving cast members in various shows at Mayberry events across the country including on the stage of the Grand Ole’ Opry. But fans also love him for his “crowd work” at Mayberry events.

For many years, David appeared at Mayberry Days and other Mayberry gatherings, entertaining festival attendees and acting as the emcee for shows. A large part of David’s success is not just his resemblance to the character of Barney Fife and his remarkable ability to evoke the character but is his ability to improvise. He wanders through crowds of Mayberry fans writing “tickets” and posing for pictures with such ease that I don’t think it is overstating it to say that he is beloved by the Mayberry community.

Mayberry Days this coming weekend will be the first in 27 years without David in attendance. His schedule at Mayberry Days always involved a grueling pace. He has not retired, though. David continues to perform as The Mayberry Deputy at other select Mayberry events as well as corporate appearances. He also appears in character in regional and national commercials for companies such as Bath Fitters.

I can tell you from personal experience that David is as nice a fellow as they come. He is undoubtedly a large factor in the continuing growth of the Mayberry spirit.

At the Mayberry Days banquet in 2010, David struck a typical pose.

2019 Mayberry Day-by-Day Calendars Ready to Ship

Our first publication, the 2019 Mayberry Day-by-Day Flip Book Calendar, is in stock and ready to ship beginning this coming week! To order online and have them signed (and personalized, if desired), visit https://mayberrybooks.com/product/2019-mayberry-day-by-day-flip-book-calendar/ to use our secure shopping cart to pay by credit card or check. If you are attending Mayberry Days, there are a couple of other signing options as discussed below.

If you have read the other sections of our website or followed us on Facebook, you know that the daily desk calendar is not a random collection of 365 facts about the classic television series The Andy Griffith Show, but a collection of facts tied to each particular day.

As a bit of behind-the-scenes background, I did consider doing the calendar as the type where one rips off a page each day but there were a few issues with that approach. First and foremost, all of those calendars are printed in China. They have mammoth presses there that do nothing but print that type of calendar. I was determined that the publication be printed in the United States. Second, I believe many people who use the type of daily calendar with pages you remove toss the daily sheet of paper into the trash and hence into a landfill instead of recycling them. Add to that the oil-based plastic stand that those calendars are mounted on that likely end up in the trash and it just didn’t seem like the right approach for a Mayberry project.

After a lot of investigation and discussion with a printing company I have dealt with previously, the idea of a ring-bound calendar with an attached easel became the clear solution. Of course, the pages can still be removed, but I titled the publication a “flip book calendar” to call attention to the idea that at the end of the year, the easel can be removed and recycled resulting in a book that can be kept as a fun reference even though the dates will not match the following calendar year.

I will release a 2020 version, of course, with all new facts.

As stated, the calendar is available signed and personalized if desired from our website. If you are in the Mount Airy area at any point, the calendar will be for sale beginning the weekend of Mayberry Days at all the major stores in town Including Wally’s Service Station and the Andy Griffith Museum. But if you are going to be in town during Mayberry Days 2018, I will be signing (and personalizing, if desired) calendars sold by the Surry Arts Council at the Thursday night banquet and at Wally’s Service Station on Main Street Saturday after the parade from 11:30 to 1:30. Wally’s is going to be hopping the entire weekend, with bluegrass bands and food truck service in addition to their usual great shop and squad car tours. Please come by and say hello!

By the way, if you find yourself at the Mayberry Trading Post in the community of Mayberry in Meadows of Dan, Virginia right off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mount Airy, they will have the calendars available for sale, too. If you are a Mayberry fan, you owe it to yourself to drive up there at some point. Be sure to tell Peggy I sent you!

The calendar will be available at these Mount Airy shops:

Wally’s Service Station
The Andy Griffith Museum
Mayberry on Main
Bear Creek Gifts and Fudge Factory
Mayberry Market & Souvenirs

Psycho Donuts or The Dead Elvis

Who doesn’t like a good donut? Lots of cities have their own sources of which they are justifiably proud. Cincinnati has Holtman’s Donuts. Portland, Oregon has Voodoo Doughnuts. And California’s Silicon Valley has Psycho Donuts.

Psycho Donuts actually has several locations. The one I visited was in San José. They are currently closed for relocation. Hopefully, they will re-open in as cool a location as they were before. At the time, Psycho was located in the lobby of a movie theater. I think this is a brilliant idea. It’s another fun option for patrons going in to see a movie which has to be a good customer base. Yet they were open even when the movie theater was not. In fact, I stopped there for breakfast two days in a row—but my wife and youngest daughter only went once.

I think I may deserve the blame for them not returning with me the second morning. The shop had a large selection of donuts, some more “normal” than others. My wife and daughter got fairly standard donuts. I got the “Dead Elvis.” I will let their menu description speak for itself:

“You’ll think you died on the throne! Cream-filled, bananas, bacon, peanut butter and jelly. It’s a hunka hunka donut love!”

I will add the cream-filled base donut was quite large. My wife and daughter were—well, a bit mortified with my choice. The next day I went back and had some wine-flavored donuts. They went to Starbucks.

The Dead Elvis.

People behind the counter are dressed like mental hospital staff. They have a large though revolving selection of unusual donuts and even have vegan donuts. The store’s tagline is “Psycho Donuts, Crazy Good!”

If you are ever in the area, I would recommend the local chain. Like a lot of places I enjoy especially when I travel, this place is a treat. But if you ate like this all the time, you’d be dead in a week.

Trips to Mount Airy, Part V: Mayberry Days, 2015

Clint Howard.

After meeting Barbara Eden and getting a photo and autograph, Rob and I got in line to meet Clint Howard. Clint played Leon, the ever-silent and ever-generous young boy in Mayberry dressed as a cowboy and offering people a bite of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Upon meeting Clint, one would not be out of line to quote Floyd the barber: “What a nice man!” Clint was so friendly and willing to chat. When another person approached the table, I said I knew he had other people he needed to see, but he at least gave the impression he would have been happy to chat for much longer. He is a real class act.

Prof. Brower’s Lecture with guests Bruce Bilson and Clint Howard.

That afternoon, we saw the always-wonderful event called “Professor Brower’s Lecture.” Neal Brower, the man who inspired this thread of posts to explain how he came to be recently wearing a t-shirt from our Facebook chapter, is the author of the excellent book Mayberry 101. Each year he does a presentation on Saturday afternoon that is really the highlight of Mayberry Days for me. He typically has a cast member on stage with him whom he interviews while offering his own insights and showing clips from the show.  In 2015, he had Clint Howard and Bruce Bilson. Bruce was the Assistant Director on the first two seasons of The Andy Griffith Show. I could have watched Neal’s presentation all day.

After the lecture, the annual meeting of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club was held, presided over by founder Jim Clark who, by the way, is also the co-author of several fine books about The Andy Griffith Show. Chapter reports are always welcome but at that point, our chapter was an internet group that really only posted on occasion so I did not offer a report.

Rob and I next explored another subject we both enjoy: Bourbon whiskey. Living near the great Commonwealth of Kentucky, Rob and I have explored most of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail together. We have also visited a number of craft distilleries and when I learned there was one right in Mount Airy called Mayberry Spirits, I knew we had to check it out.

Mayberry Spirits.

The master distiller at Mayberry Spirits takes a shortcut used by some to try to capture the same flavor profile as aged bourbon without actually aging the spirits in a barrel. Instead, charred wood chips are added to the new whiskey and shaken once a day with the theory that you can get the equivalent of a two-year bourbon in just a few weeks. I am not a fan of this method or the resulting bourbon but it was still a fun tour. The distiller led the overview himself and gave an entertaining explanation of his operation, complete with humorous outfits. While I was not blown away by their bourbon, they do make an excellent vanilla if you are a cook. You can buy their products in their gift shop without taking the tour.

Hillbilly Hot Dogs. Yes, that is a van in the top of a tree.

We closed out our visit with the evening performance of Colonel Tim’s Talent Show, a revue featuring the tribute artists and many of the celebrities along with the top contestants in the festival talent show and various musical performances.

On the way home the next day, I introduced Rob to Hillbilly Hot Dogs. He loved it as much as I thought he would. Another of their dogs I enjoy is named in honor of the supernatural being said to appear periodically in  Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The Mothman Dog is a deep-fried weenie with Hillbilly Hot Dogs’ own hot dog sauce, 1000-Island dressing, two onion rings, and tomatoes—or as the menu says, maters.

Rob did seem a bit concerned at first.
They removed the boat from the roof of one of the buses and added an open-air deck.

I also mentioned previously the Homewrecker, a mammoth 15-inch-long deep-fried one pound weenie piled high with peppers, onions, nacho cheese, spicy chili sauce, jalapeños, mustard, slaw, tomatoes, lettuce, and shredded cheese. They actually have an even bigger version called the Widowmaker which is a 30-inch, 2-pound weenie with 4 pounds of the same toppings. Needless to say, we didn’t have that one either.

 

A more reasonably-sized weenie.
Rob left some graffiti this time.

 

I don’t know whether it was the fun-filled time we had in Mount Airy or the lure of a return trip to Hillbilly Hot Dogs, but before we were home, Rob had already decided he wanted to come back to Mayberry Days the following year.

 

 

 

 

 

Speedy Chef Interlude

In Mount Airy, the “must-go-to” restaurant is Snappy Lunch, thanks to it actually being mentioned in an early episode of The Andy Griffith Show. It is fun to try other restaurant options, especially less crowded ones, during Mayberry Days. Speedy Chef was a local spot my friend Rob and I visited for lunch on Saturday during Mayberry Days in 2015.

If you looking for a fancy meal, Speedy Chef will disappoint. But the restaurant has its charms. They are one of the many spots in town that serve a local menu item called by the non-descriptive term “ground-steak sandwiches.” These sandwiches are a remnant of a period when hard economic times led to meat being “stretched” by the addition of a filler. In essence, “ground-steak” is ground beef that has been boiled instead of fried. After it is cooked and drained, flour and water are added to thicken the meat. The sandwiches are traditionally served on a toasted bun and topped with coleslaw, tomato, chopped onion, and mayo. There are other examples in the U.S. of using fillers to make meat go further, such as what are called “slug burgers” in some parts of the country and foods similar to sausage like scrapple in many rural areas along the coast in the South. Cincinnati has a similar delicacy called goetta.

The meat in a ground-steak sandwich is looser, almost like a sloppy joe without any tomato sauce or ketchup yet with a bit more consistency than a sloppy joe. I have since had the ground steak sandwiches in a couple of different restaurants in Mount Airy. Speedy Chef’s version was fine though I had one at another restaurant in town to which I would give the edge. I will add that a number of reviews I have read about Speedy Chef complain about the service, but we did not have a negative experience at all. The kids who worked there were certainly friendly enough.

Speedy Chef is located on Main Street but not in the downtown area. The building may be a bit run down but one does not see this type of restaurant often anymore. It definitely has a 1950s vibe about it. It is fun to support such businesses and I certainly don’t regret having my first ground steak sandwich there.